No time to let up on EU sanctions on Mugabe

South African President Jacob Zuma flew into London tonight (Tuesday) with media reports suggesting that he would press Gordon Brown to relax EU sanctions on the thugs in ZANU-PF who ran, and continue to run parts of, Zimbabwe. It is being suggested that relaxing the sanctions could encourage ZANU-PF to be more co-operative. British trade unionists disagree, and TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber is writing to President Zuma today to urge him not to support any relaxation.

The argument is one which Zimbabwe's trade unionists, and civil society organisations generally, have set out. The sanctions were imposed to punish individuals (and a few companies) implicated in human rights abuses. They are not sanctions on Zimbabwe as a whole, as Robert Mugabe repeatedly claims. 

Those human rights abuses have emphatically not ended, despite the MDC entering an 'inclusive' or power-sharing government. The repressive organs of the state – the police, the army and so on - remain under ZANU-PF control. Farm invasions have continued and Mugabe's cronies are now – under the cover of black empowerment or "indigenisation" – taking over other natural resources like diamond mines. Those farm invasions, as Zimbabwe's farm workers' union GAPWUZ have reported, hurt black Zimbabweans most, not the white farmers. It is the black farm workers who are beaten, lose their homes and lose their jobs.

And unions are still being harassed. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) have published a comprehensive dossier of breaches of trade union human rights over the last year. This week, three ZCTU employees – Gilbert Marembo, Tenyson Muchefa and Adrien Mugwanju, were arrested while conducting a civic education workshop at Montview Hotel in Mutare, for holding a meeting without informing the police, despite the fact that the law requiring such notification expired a year ago.

And as the Amnesty urgent action says, the leaders of GAPWUZ are being harassed just for telling the truth about farm invasions – their General Secretary in hiding, two leaders arrested, the rest being harassed.

This is the picture of human rights in Zimbabwe. Relaxing sanctions on Robert Mugabe's cronies would mean relaxing our support for human rights, and letting them off the hook.

Owen Tudor

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